On September, 21, 2012, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the World Bank, held policy forum entitled, a Active Cities: Transforming Communities for Smart Growth and Health. The event featured Dr. Richard Visser, Minister of Health of Aruba, Dr. Miguel Malo, Vice Minister of Health from Ecuador, Jorge Munoz Wells, Mayor of Miraflores in Lima, Peru, and other urban planning, development and health experts who shared best practices and discussed opportunities for multi-sectoral action to address physical inactivity, a leading risk factor for many noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
The forum was hosted by the World Bank and organized in commemoration of Wellness Week, an initiative promoting individual and environmental action to improve health in the region of the Americas
Evidence was presented highlighting the significant health and economic toll physical activity takes on countries. Several new studies directly link physical inactivity with 9% of global premature deaths, 6% of the global burden of disease from coronary heart disease, 7% of type 2 diabetes, 10% of breast cancer, and 10% of colon cancer. Solutions to increase physical activities are known, however many of such interventions require cooperation with sectors other than health, including transportation, urban planning, finance, and environment to name a few. Thus, a “health in all policies" approach will help move beyond the health sector in producing lifestyle changes, including “healthy schools”, “healthy communities”, and “healthy worksites”. At the heart of Wellness Week is a vision of cities with more sidewalks, green spaces, trails and pathways.
Examples that were presented identified ways to inform and train doctors, so patients become empowered with a greater understanding about physical activity; where schools offer schools offer children the opportunity to move and play, and where workplaces recognize that physical activity is business-relevant. A joint commitment to economic growth and health requires a better understanding of how smart investments in the built environment can help enable people to live active, enjoyable, and healthy lives.